Opening weekend of the NFL always has a few surprises, but even so, much of the week is composed of fulfilled expectations. The Jaguars were awful, as expected. The Saints and Falcons were in a close battle to the end — as expected. The two exceptions, at least in the early round of games, was the Titans and the Jets surprising everyone with opening wins.
The Titans were able to shut down the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense all day long. After Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey left the game with what appeared to be a serious knee injury early in the game, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers just couldn't crack the Titans' defense.
To Jake Locker and the Titans' credit, they were able to do just enough, capitalizing on solid play and limiting mistakes. It was a bit strange to see a team beating the Steelers using Pittsburgh's own model for success. Limit mistakes and force the opponent into bad positions.
The Jets were in a similarly close game. In a back and forth affair, the Jets were able to steal a win by kicking a go-ahead field goal with just two ticks left on the clock. The field goal was set up by a bone-headed unnecessary roughness penalty in which Geno Smith was shoved as he darted out of bounds. The extra 15 yards put the Jets in field goal range.
Even with the wins, it's still hard to tell exactly where the Titans and Jets will fall in the grand scheme of the NFL season. They're quite clearly not among the worst teams in the league, but they were playing equally mediocre teams. The Steelers are beginning to suffer from the injury bug, and the Buccaneers still don't appear to be a team stacked with talent.
Winning the opening game of the season doesn't make or break a team. The entire AFC North lost, but we still expect the Bengals, Ravens and even the Steelers to be in the discussion for a wildcard or high-seeding in the playoffs. Still, every win helps, and for the Titans, the game hands them a tie-breaker should they need it in the wild card race against the Steelers. For two teams considered among the worst in the league, early wins can only help build their confidence as they move forward in the season.
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